Social Question

talljasperman's avatar

How would a prestige based economy work?

Asked by talljasperman (21842points) February 12th, 2010

I played a “Star Trek” Personal Computer game from the 90’s and the way to get ships is through the prestige from accomplishing goals… not money; and I was wondering… how would it work in our world today; in which prestige was the source of economic value and not money? And how would we go about changing the system from our current one?

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24 Answers

phoebusg's avatar

You contribute to the common good, you get credits. You may then spend said credits toward someone else’s contribution to you.

Change depends on everyone, but you can start with small barter-like groups. I was actually thinking of making a barter-based chore-sharing website, and then eventually escalate it to a barter tracking system.

If curious

Look for Taskswap.

talljasperman's avatar

@phoebusg I like that explanation

grumpyfish's avatar

Cory Doctorow has written (at least one) book about a meritoctrity system:

CMaz's avatar

“You contribute to the common good, you get credits.”

That still creates a caste system. A group of haves and have-nots.
Based on your contribution to the common good? That defining your “wealth” ? Ouch.

Talk about a way for the less fortunate to feel less.

The only way a cash less society would work, is to have a bunch of drones working and living for the pleasure of doing what ever it is they do.
With equal social status. No one owning anything and everything being communal.

The misconception to a Star Trekian life is that the simple action of wanting MORE as in rank it self demands acquiring more, for ones own benefit.
YOu can’t expect that way of thinking to be governed. Or you would never go beyond

talljasperman's avatar

@ChazMaz I like your part about doing what makes you happy….I know some people who work at jobs that they hate… It would be refreshing to do something because you wanted to…. Bit wouldn’t someone need (or be assigned) to be in charge of objects and systems…like the space program and such.

phoebusg's avatar

@ChazMaz respectable, but nowhere in your answer is it visible as to how and why that would happen. Can you provide us with a concrete example – something we can worth with?

You trade what you like doing, for what someone else likes doing. Everybody’s happy – pursuing what they like etc.

CMaz's avatar

The problem is there is never enough. Never a ceiling you hit or a saturation point.

You loose your job. You seem to get by with so little.
You get a job and it never pays enough.
It is a double edge sward. The never have enough, propels you further down the road.

I believe most great ideas and inventions came/come from an individuals “desperation”.

“but nowhere in your answer is it visible as to how and why that would happen.”
That is common sense and human nature.

talljasperman's avatar

@ChazMaz maybe greed has (or had) its purpose…. I wonder if anyone has experimented with this system…It could have been done in an economics research paper years ago…

CMaz's avatar

@talljasperman – It sure does.

Just as the good germs greedily gobble up the bad germs.

phoebusg's avatar

@ChazMaz I don’t think it’s necessary to make elaborate ‘trick’ systems to get people to pull the cart. You can just make it obvious that the cart ought to be pulled, it’s a task that can be shared and anyone can do that wants to. If no one does it, the cart is not pulled. But that’s wonderful is that in a huge population you’ll find people that don’t enjoy anything more in life than pulling said cart – or whatever other task.

There is always someone who loves doing something, that someone else doesn’t.

You can just work on the realization, if we all have more, you too have more. Rather than if you have more, you will make it. Your quality of life directly depends on the quality of life of the collective. But if we all only looked after ourselves, there would be no collective or common benefit to mention. Right now we have a taxation system that barely works. You get credits by whatever – and I do mean whatever means possible. Anything is acceptable so long you get credits—this makes no sense. You can be harming both the environment and social environment and getting credits for it. Meanwhile you cost the collective an arm and a leg, and won’t collect enough through taxes to fix either.

stump's avatar

If you use a system that depends on ‘credits’ that you can spend, you are still using money. How about a system like the military? Whe you achieve something laudable, you get a medal. That can’t be spent, but you have it for ever. Now people see on your chest what your accomplishments are and will give you prestige and power accordingly.

phoebusg's avatar

@stump because it is easier to measure contributions in a unit. Prestige is too general, will you keep feeding the guy that once saved the group from a bear for the rest of his life – without further action toward the group?

talljasperman's avatar

@stump Like gold stars in knindergarten….It works for the young… It got me studying until one day I didn’t feel like doing anymore book reports and other than not getting a star nothing happened…so I stopped doing homework almost completely…until I discovered that i like reading…So I took charge of my own education and ignored school when convenient… I skipped school to read in the library…I manged to pass my classes and the librarians left me alone to study….I made it to univeristy and dropped out to read and study more…

talljasperman's avatar

@talljasperman school is like this… your get paid in marks and you get awards at the end of the year…some see past it and study for its own sake…and I think that what the schools want (life-long learners)

phoebusg's avatar

Fluther uses a credit system, prestige manifested in credits, or lurve. It’s working, even though there is no real use for lurve. It’s something iconic, it is motivating enough to get this thing going. To get people addicted to collecting lurve and the like. And you can’t even exchange it, but you are in a sense. Because your questions, too – get answered.

I can already imagine tombstones with credit scores. “He passed on with a high score of XXXXX.”

stump's avatar

@phoebusg Okay, how about this? You put the date on each medal, so you can’t just sit on your laurals forever. Or after a couple of years they expire.
@talljasperman I think it is great that you dropped out of university so you could have time to read and study.

JLeslie's avatar

To jump in on the conversation…I think awards and gold stars are just perks when we are adults, but it is not going to be a huge motivator, money is. Companies tried to believe that recognition could replace paying someone well, but I feel this is a misinterpretation of the need for recognition. It is not in place of money, it is on top of it, for morale building, and creating a culture of positive reinforcement.

I think there are two types of systems we might be talking about when we discuss getting rid of money, one might be a government controlled type of system, where the government provides necessaties, and everyone lives fairly equal, a communism type model. The other would be people get paid fairly similarly for dissimilar jobs (so I guess my second example does have a money) but the individual has the ability to spend their money the way they prefer. Bigger house, small car, public schools for their children. Or, small house, small car, extravagant vacations, public schools, etc. Or, maybe you want to save save save and retire early, you still have power over your life. This is kind of what Denmark does from what I understand, people choose a career that fits them, because the salaries are so similar from profession to profession, but they continue to work and be productive.

So back to the question I don’t think a prestige based economy would necessarily work, but an economy with respect for all types of career choices, that we all depend on each other, kind of a kibbutz mentality is appealing to me, much like Star Trek, but I still want power over my own money, because I equate money with independence. I want to be able to leave the kibbutz if I feel like it.

CMaz's avatar

“You can just make it obvious that the cart ought to be pulled”
It only becomes “obvious” when it is necessary.
When the Quakers first came here. They did that, or they would die. It was cut and dry.

“There is always someone who loves doing something, that someone else doesn’t.”
No one loves to pump crap out of a camper or cesspool. It is the need and want that is the drive.
Hey, Not me… I do not want to be Captain of the Enterprise. Point me to the nearest clogged crapper.

People drove around with bumper stickers saying, “My child is an honors student”.
Then people started driving around with bumper stickers saying, “my child beat up you honor student.”

Everything has to do with some form of competition. Competition only works when there are winners and losers.

stump's avatar

Gold stars would work only if there was no money, and the only way to get food was to earn a gold star.

JLeslie's avatar

@stump Then the gold star is money, isn’t it?

stump's avatar

@JLeslie Not if you don’t spend it. You get food (or whatever) but you keep your gold star. The more gold stars you have, the more stuff you can get. But you keep the gold star until it expires. (bear in mind I am just making this up as I go)

wundayatta's avatar

There are so many misunderstandings here that I don’t know where to start. I also don’t know how deep I want to get into it, since I have answered this question (or questions related to it) four or five times in the past.

First of all, we already have a prestige based system. It’s called—wait for it—money! It seems sad, but most people don’t know what money really is. Money is a metaphor for value. What is value? Well, it is the prestige in which we hold something or someone.

All the money in the world is a metaphor for all the goods and services in the world. You can print more money or take money out of the system, but it’s still the same—it stands for all the goods and services in the world. When there’s more money, it takes more to buy stuff. When there’s less money, it takes less to buy stuff. But it’s silly to say things are worth more or less. They are what they are, an money is a metaphor for how valuable we think the goods or services are.

People who make or provide more of what others want are held in higher esteem. They are more valuable to people They have higher prestige since they do more for us.

There is an exception to this—and that is altruistic people. They do stuff with no exchange of money, although they are very important to people. Money is good at measuring value, but it doesn’t measure some things that are important to people very well (or at all).

Anyway, we created money as a convenience. It helps us measure the value of what we exchange without have to cut a horse in half in order to buy one pig.

The second major point I want to make is about what motivates people. Motivation can be divided up into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. All the systems I see mentioned here—money, ticks, gold stars, etc, are extrinsic motivators. The problem with extrinsic motivators is that they only motivate as long as the motivator is there. Take the money or prestige away, and people stop doing it. I mean, are you going to work in the sewage treatment plant because you love the smell? Most of our world works with extrinsic motivators because rewards available for an activity are the best way to make sure the things we, as a society, want done get done.

Intrinsic motivation comes from inside. You do something simply for the pleasure of doing it. Like on fluther. The only reason why people answer questions here is because they enjoy doing it and they enjoy the interactions arising from it. It’s a way to make friends. It’s a way to find a place in the web of humanity where you can actually feel if you matter or not.

Some people raise their kids to get A’s by paying them for the A. Surprise, surprise. If the payment goes, so do the A’s. Other parents raise their kids to work hard just for the enjoyment of learning. You can never take that away, and such people work hard for enjoyment the rest of their lives (even if they have to do it during their fee time).

Another thing that money may or may not measure is relationships. In the sociological world, they call this social capital. Our relationships can be valuable monetarily as well as in terms of prestige, but they don’t have to be. Social capital gives you access to many benefits, though—connections that allow you to get better jobs, or more services for your neighborhood, etc, etc. Being held in high esteem is an advantage, and it does translate into wealth, although probably not as precisely as direct exchange of goods and services for money.

Anyway, prestige and money are intertwined in ways that can not be easily disentangled, if they can be disentangled at all. They both mean substantially similar things. They are about status—which is a constantly changing target, as the things that other people need change and as our ability to provide what others need (whether widgets, art or friendship) rises and falls.

The real reason we have attempts to change our current methods of establishing prestige is that people without it usually think they should have more. When I graduated from college, it was enormously frustrating because I graduated during a recession and I didn’t have a job. I thought I was very talented, so someone should give me a job. Socialism sounded very nice to me because I thought it would somehow be wise enough to reconcile these inequities. I didn’t understand that, while it gave everyone jobs, it didn’t necessarily give them the right jobs.

As I grew older, I learned more about work and how to get things done (things I had no clue about right out of college), and slowly I gained resources and prestige. People came to know who I was and what I could do, and they sought me out for help. I realize from my perspective now that my opinion of my abilities straight out of college was way out of line.

It wasn’t easy having to live in the YMCA and then in a dump way out in the badlands of Brooklyn, with three or four people in a three room apartment. It wasn’t easy finding a job that, at a time when my friends were making 10K a year, earned me 7K. But I learned a lot, and I was doing political work that I thought was important and would help make the world a better place. I wasn’t just working for myself. I was working for everyone.

My jobs have all been like that. I don’t make as much money as my peers, but I do work that, I hope, helps a much wider group of people than if I was a manager at a bank or something. There are times when I wish I did have a job that paid a lot, because they it is so much easier to show you should have prestige.

I think that we all—no, I know we all want prestige. It’s built into us as tribal animals. I’m fairly sure we think we have less prestige than we deserve. We wonder why that it, and it is easier to point to a system that doesn’t measure it properly than to point to oneself. I’ve done that most of my life. It’s only lately that I’ve come to trust the market. I figure now that if it doesn’t make me any money, then it isn’t worth nearly what I thought it was worth. But then, I’m intrinsically motivated. I believe in what I do. So I do it whether anyone else thinks it’s worthwhile or not. It’s the right thing to do, and that gives me pleasure.

CMaz's avatar


I am still reading it.

From when it was first posted.

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